People Artists

In April 2015 I received a lovely note from my friend David Zinger, asking if I would like to make a contribution to a forthcoming book, titled People Artists. With a title like that – how could I refuse? David asked me a handful of questions which I answered as follows:

How would you define a People Artist at Work in your own words?

I believe we are all born artists, so we all have the potential for people artistry. Here are a few things I practice which can help define a people artist and ensure your artistic flame can flourish.

Being open to possibilities
Accepting your own vulnerability
Showing your work

We Are All Artists

What makes you or the person you are thinking of a People Artist?

Developing a habit of awareness and presence helps make someone a people artist. A willingness to suspend judgement when new ideas are forming helps too, as does being kind. Never underestimate the artistic power of simple things.

Can you offer one or two specific examples of where and how People Artistry was demonstrated?

Follow this link. It takes you to a series of images cocreated by learning and development professionals invited to think about the future for their profession. For me – this collection represents a facet of people artistry.

What do you see as the results of the demonstration of People Artistry?

When I see people artistry at work I see smiles, I see people getting to know one another better, I see people supporting and encouraging one another and making work better, together. I see people…simply being people.

Is there anything you would like to add about the topic?

People artistry is partly about encouraging creativity, and creativity isn’t something you just switch on. It ebbs and flows according to the environment and attitude around you. I like to invite people to consider this question. What levers and dials do you need to be aware of and be able to adjust, to help bring out creativity and people artistry in yourself and those around you?

I sent my response to David and got on with my life. Yesterday morning there was a knock at the door and a large parcel was delivered. I had no idea what I was signing for…

People Artists

Inside the package is a signed copy of the new book, and a wonderful signed, framed print of the painting used for the book cover. People Artists is a beautiful collection of thoughts, feelings and ideas about how to make work better, twinned with a series of images painted by Peter W Hart.

People Artists will be available for sale very soon and I’ll update this post with more information, and share details of how to buy it on Facebook, Twitter et al. For now, thank you David and Peter for putting an excellent book together and for such a lovely way to appreciate the contributors.


Artists and Thieves

I joined David Zinger’s Employee Engagement network back in March 2009 and since then I’ve gained a lot from being a part of this network. I’ve contributed, shared and learned, and I’ve met David twice on his visits to the UK. I think the network is a helpful resource for people curious about how to make work more enjoyable and useful, and if you’re not yet a member, pop over and take a look – and if you like what you see then maybe join in?

The reason I referenced this network today is that I received a super email from David this week in which he shared a video he’d posted on the network called Steal Like an Artist.

The video is an interesting tale told by Austin Kleon as he traces the roots of his ‘original’ ideas and thinking about creating poetry directly from the newspapers of the day all the way back to the mid 1700s. Not so original after all huh? Kleon acknowledges this and goes on to encourage us to steal and reinvent pieces of work we admire, and mash up the old and the new to create something different…ish. I don’t have a newspaper to hand right now, but I will buy one and see what poetic efforts I can steal extract from it soon.

Watching the video, I was reminded of being in the company of a few friends earlier this year, when among other things, we tried an experiment with poetry which went something like this: I encouraged people to think of a list of words around the themes of water and movement (we were in Greenwich close by to the River Thames), and once people had a few words and shared them with the group, we each then looked to integrate our words into verse. Pencils and paper were provided along with some ink pencils too, so that people could add colour to their emerging work. Because we approached the task in stages it seemed to make it easier for people to produce interesting work than if we’d all just tried to write a poem from scratch. Here’s some feedback from a few of my fellow thieves poets after they’d had time to reflect on the process.

I enjoyed the peace, the step by step building, delving into something deeper. I felt prepared and safe, yet ready for something unsafe. I was surprised at the emotion it created, although writing poetry myself, I realise it can be an amazing conduit. I felt it connected the group, and yet was an individual isolation.  Paradoxically. Meg Peppin

What was unique about the experience was being with my creativity alongside others in a way that I had not experienced before. I very much enjoyed experiencing and seeing compelling aspects of others naturally surfacing through the process, linking me to their creativity, passion and power of their contribution. For me personally it provided an opportunity to access a different way to face a challenge. Simply by exploring one word, I found an ease of flow and depth. I took away a personal commitment to use the process whenever stuck, be it in writing, creating workshops or bedding down new thinking and new approaches. Natasha Stallard

Your session, like some of the others featured what i consider to be an important aspect of facilitating conversation and making things happen and that was – it was companionable. By this I mean we were doing an activity together which led to other things ie conversation, tears etc. I’m going to write about being companionable at some point because it so powerful for letting other things happen. This was my number one take-away.

So . . . really liked the fact I was sharing an activity with everyone else. I liked they fact I was free to do whatever i chose – bit of painting, poetry. Wasn’t sure where I or we as a group were going but I liked that and it felt OK. I was less concerned about what I would leave with, i.e. a decent poem and enjoyed more the experience.

I liked the sense of place and connections with where we were (Greenwich, river) and I enjoyed the way you facilitated the session – bit of nudging, suggestions  . . . helping us along. I liked the context you provided us with – I thought that was a good bit of hosting, something I liked.  I also really enjoyed seeing what everyone else did and their reactions. Some powerful responses which left me wondering about peoples’ past experiences. I got snippets of people but not the whole picture. Martin Couzins

On returning home, I stole the idea had a go too and produced this drawing/doodle/poem/video – called Slowly Bares the Soul

So what? Well I think the video David sent out and the experiences it reminded me of, point out the importance of reinvention and repurposing, of being open to new possibilities, and also to letting ideas percolate, layer and develop. Someone should write a poem about that.

Thanks to David Zinger, Austin Kleon, Megan Peppin, Natasha Stallard and Martin Couzins. Without people, you’re nothing.

Creative Leadership – A Tipping Point

For the last couple of years or so I’ve been experimenting with art. Partly as a tool to enable others to make work better, and partly for the sheer hell of it. One of the best things about making paintings and sketches, is the opportunity to send them to other people. I’ve come to love my regular trips to the Post Office where I wave goodbye to these little works of art. My work has ended up in many places across the UK, and in several States in America. I am grateful for the opportunity to share, and for the feedback I receive.

Tipping Point

Yesterday I arrived home after a long day of work and fun. I was greeted by an original piece of artwork by Alison Chisnell. Even though I knew it was on the way, the arrival of this wonderful little sky scene stopped me in my tracks. This is the first time that I can recall a piece of art coming back in the other direction, to me instead of from me, and I am uplifted and delighted to be the recipient of such a kind gift. The picture reminds me of my very recent walk in Cornwall with Flora, and the fact that it arrived with me just as Creative Leadership is launching, is surely a good omen.

Small is the New Significant

When he was interviewed about the Principles of Creative Leadership over at Fast Company, Sir Ken Robinson said, “Creativity is not some exotic, optional extra. It’s a strategic issue.” I agree with him, and I also think it should occupy some of the smaller, day to day space in our lives too. It’s as much about looking for the next small thing, as the next big thing. As my friend David Zinger so eloquently puts it, “Small is the new significant”. Amen to that.